I began writing a comment to a post over on Provoked (a superlative blog authored by Bea Elliot) and suddenly had written too much to be contained in a comment. I could have, I guess, split it into multiple parts and “commented” but it seems easier to just post it here.
Bea (and companions), on behalf of all the animals that are terrorized, injured, killed and disrespected because of human animals needing to gain attention and to 'show-off' to counter their own deficient self-esteem...thank you for speaking up for them.
The rodeo subculture is a tough group...at least tough in the sense that there aren't a lot of rodeo philosophers around…self-reflection and self-awareness is often viewed with suspicion. They, quite often, are folks that have been bewitched by the Hollywood version of the "old west"...in other words they believe in fairy tales. You know the fantasies like "Out west where men are men and women are women" or "Ain't never been a horse that couldn't be broke." or "John Wayne was a hero." (instead of the WWII draft dodger he actually was) or "Cowboys 'tamed' the west." On and on and on...Moviemakers and novelists have been making a living at selling these fantasies for decades.
Now you and your group showed up to yank the fantasies away from these poor folk of the earth who work hard all day (some exploiting, hurting and killing animals). Their fantasies that no one is cruel to an animal at a rodeo, that it is a 'sport', that it is a 'tradition', that it is a fair 'competition' and that maybe the animals enjoy it too. On top of that they have invested a lot of time and money in the cowboy costumes and you're trying to take away their dress-up fun…or at least to make it that they are copying the dress and behaviors of a serial rapist/murder instead of some Hollywood designated admirable type person/group.
Most (all) of these folks see animals as inferior to them and presenting information that suggests that this is inaccurate strikes them as a mortal insult. Anyway, if they couldn't look down on animals, who are they going to look down on (referencing Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”)? Suggesting to them that they are 'mean' to animals is just outrageous (to them), why...that isn't part of the cowboy fantasy...cowboys always stand up for the weak and the helpless and the powerless...don't they?
Well actually no, cowboys were casual laborers that helped the rich owners kill relatively powerless animals for profit...but don't tell the fantasy believer that. That's like telling a 3 year old there is no tooth fairy or Santa Claus is a pervert. Doing that is seen as being mean and cruel. Taking fantasies away from a 3 year old driving big pickups and chewing tobacco and wearing funny hats could be an exciting if not risky venture...as y'all discovered.
You wrote: “But many of these trucks with tires taller than my vehicle - spit and threw used chewing tobacco at us. They shouted obscenities. They cussed and gave us the finger... They spun their wheels so as to kick up pebbles and rocks in our faces... The gunned their engines and left clouds of black smoke as they sped off towards the parking lot. Many had children in the cars as well. They were brutish. Angry. Aggressive and hostile.”
Yup, cowboying was (and is) brutish and hurtful and domineering if you were (or are) a cow or a horse. Don't confuse the Hollywood myth with the reality of what it was and is. Cowboying is a term referencing the imprisoning, exploiting, hurting and killing of cows for money and of the using of horses to assist in this exploitation (exploiting the horses in the process too). These are not nice and gentle and life-affirming things to do. Human animals who do these things are going to be, by necessity, stained and distorted and twisted by acting this way.
Good for you and everyone that participated in the demonstration. You are brave and caring and bold folks and I'm very glad that none of you were hurt (cowboys (Hollywood again) often don't 'need no ‘stinkin law', they settle things with their fists or a gun).
An analogy that is fairly close would be if y'all went to a Hell's Angels meeting and protested about the evils of motorcycles. This is their identity and if you take away the toys (motorcycles or animals) and make their costumes represent something undesirable then playtime isn't nearly as much 'fun'. And guess who the spoilsport is…
Now, in point of fact, many of those participants in the rodeo subculture know what they are doing is wrong and despicable but are actively denying this to themselves and to others...that's partly why any criticisms or objections are met with so forcefully and vehemently. When they were children they were probably still sensitive to and aware of the suffering of the animals...but they were taught over and over to suppress their empathy and awareness sense of justice and compassion. They were taught that to be a 'man' or a 'grown-up' they had to do that.
Perhaps one of the most important things that your demonstration did was to let those children know that all grown-ups do not see things the way they are being told to see things. All adults don't ignore the suffering of the animals; there are people that view all of that cowboy/rodeo stuff differently. The children had a glimpse of the fact that there are choices...that hurting or crying for the baby cows being jerked off their feet isn’t weird. The children were shown that some adults don't ignore their feeling for their fellow animals...and maybe they don't have to either.
You folks presented an example of a way of being grown-up and adult and compassionate and fair and just...that wasn't the cowboy way…it really isn’t the “American” way except “officially”…that sort of stuff is what we tell ourselves (and others) that we are but rare indeed is the occasion that we actually behave that way…and if we do live up to our own fairytale about ourselves…it is often only briefly. Jeez, women got the vote here only about 90 years ago (they were considered too ‘soft-hearted’ and ‘soft-headed’ to handle such a manly thing as voting). This is a society that only since the 1960’s has provided some degree of effective support for the right of African-American citizens to vote. And all you have to do is look at some of the shenanigans that went on in Florida a few years ago to know that “voting” and “democracy” is often an ideal that lip service is directed toward, not a reality.
I consider it a real triumph of enlightened maturity and progress that you brave folks made it through your demonstration without being harmed. Wow, Florida has progressed more than I would have thought (I once lived there for a while up in the panhandle…which was quaintly known as “Lower Alabama”). I think your demonstration was down in the more ‘civilized’ part of the state.
As I was writing this it struck me that maybe some sort of classificatory system could be established for animal exploitation and exploiters (exploitation includes any use of a sentient being for any purpose). Surely it is the case that someone who is a ‘casual’ exploiter of animals, someone who eats ‘meat’, ‘dairy’ and eggs because that’s what they grew up with and were never exposed to anything different and who also has a dog that lives with them and maybe a cat, someone who is not a chaser of the cowboy fairytale, or someone who makes a profit off of using or killing animals or selling something to support animal exploitation…surely this person would both have a somewhat different reaction to information about ethical veganism and the multiple negativities of animal usage and animal based diets than someone whose complete lifestyle revolves heavily around mayhem and suffering and death being visited upon the other animals.
For instance, cancers are “staged” according to (mostly) the cancer type, size and degree of spread. You may have read about “stage 4 cancer” or something like that. Generally there are 4 stages (there are a number of staging schemas) and stage 4 means the cancer has exceeded a certain size and/or metastasized to other parts of the body from where it originated. Stage 4 is generally the worst.
Well, couldn’t some sort of staging or classificatory scheme be worked out for animal exploitation or exploiters based, for instance, on the duration, type and pervasiveness of harming animals. The duration of the exploiting behavior would be important (it is likely children are more open to understanding the need for exploitation avoidance) because usually the longer we do something the more we are invested in continuing it. Whatever other factors that might be considered relevant could be used to design an ‘intervention’. The ‘intervention’ could include how to communicate with this person in such a way that they would be able to hear the information without being blinded or deafened by their defense mechanisms, what kind of information, how rapidly to expose them to information, etc. Then the interventions could maybe be tested out to discover whether they were effective or not, and modified if need be….and so on.
Sort of like classifying and treating a disease, eh? And, like most disease stuff, prevention is a hell of a lot better and easier and effective that trying to cure…and like some diseases, there’s no cure, only management of symptoms.
Anyway, my hat (not a cowboy one) is off to you folks for exposing a bunch of what were probably hard-core “Stage 4” exploiters to a very different take on their behavior (ethical veganism). Thank you very much.